In a town Heber’s size, almost everyone knows each other, and a tragedy striking one family affects everyone. But even by small town standards, the crash on Highway 189 late Monday afternoon was shocking.
Two of the victims, 2021 Wasatch High School graduates Payton Caldwell and Emma Call, died after being hit by a Jeep driven by Amy Nelson, whose daughter is a current Wasatch High student. Nelson was also killed.
Nelson’s Jeep was sent careening into the teenagers’ car after it was rear-ended by a Ford truck. Investigators haven’t yet determined what caused the accident.
Hundreds of residents turned out for a candlelight vigil remembering all three victims Tuesday night. The vigil began at an intersection near Payton’s house, with mourners walking first to Payton’s, next to the Nelson home, and then to Emma’s house. All lived near each other.
Tiffany Hall, a lifelong friend of Payton’s , called the vigil really good, and really sad.
"Pretty much the whole senior class plus other siblings, there were hundreds of people that showed up to the street, like cops had to block off streets for how many people there were, there were Payton's and Emma's closest friends were over on a grass area and then whoever wants to go up and talk did. I got up there is obvious, very emotional, and everyone was just bawling their eyes out."
Tiffany called Payton humble, kind, and someone everyone wanted to be friends with. Payton had been planning to study something related to medicine or psychology in college at Southern Utah University, and Emma was headed to Snow College, Tiffany said.
Maddie Farrell, who was friends with Emma and Payton, is close to Payton’s younger twin sisters, and said she grew up considering Payton her own older sister. It was Payton who introduced her to Emma, who Maddie said became a friend as well. Maddie remembered Emma:
"You could really tell that there's something special about her. She would walk into a room and just instantly make everyone smile, like I don't think you could ever be sad around her. A lot of people would always say that she was the color yellow. I think that's really true. If you got to know her even just by like looking at a picture of her you could tell she's just full of energy. And it was just like she would make it her goal to make you not sad."
As the community starts processing its shock and grief, the girls said many are taking comfort in their faith, and their knowledge that God has a plan.
"The church groups came in just gave some very nice words and I heard that they gave blessings to the families, which I thought was really cool," Maddie said. "And we had some people that weren't able to show up but they still called in or texted and gave their words of comfort and advice.It's so sad to see them go. But for their families' belief points, it was their time to join with their Heavenly Father again, and we're so grateful that they were able to make an impact on their lives and our lives. They were great people, and I'm glad I got to know them."
Anyone who would like to support the victims’ families can visit a Go Fund Me page the Farrell family set up. It’s titled, In Memory of Payton Caldwell and Emma Call.